If you’ve been making most of your meals at home for the last year, you know that cooking burnout is real. Perhaps you’ve supported local restaurants by treating yourself to takeout, but your wallet is feeling the squeeze. Where can you turn for culinary inspiration and delicious, thoughtfully sourced eats?
Enter sundries, a new gourmet grocery located at 2618 Hillsborough Road, inside the cheerful farmhouse interior of Durham’s LocoPops. Open since January, the shop offers top-notch provisions—and a lifeline for local food producers.
Founder Kristin Bedinger describes the concept as “a smaller version of Southern Seasons—which was beloved and will be missed—but for the next generation and with a more local bent.”
Shelves at sundries are stocked with staples from local and regional makers, including sprouted all-purpose flour and grits from Mebane’s Red Tail Grains, and ten kinds of heirloom beans from renowned purveyor Rancho Gordo, whose bean club has recently become something of a cult phenomenon. The store is the first retail outlet for Saxapahaw baker Kathleen Williams’ crackers, part of a line of products called Kate’s Goods, and also serves as a pick-up location for her naturally leavened bread subscription. Shoppers can also score loaves from Raleigh’s Boulted Bread, or a baguette from Oxford’s Strong Arm Baking Co.
“I’m excited about working closely with producers and chefs to expand their reach in Durham, and to help connect people who might like to work together,” Bedinger says. “Durham’s cooperative business community inspires me, and it’s so rewarding to order from other local businesses.”
Opening a specialty food store is a dream come true for Bedinger. After earning a business administration degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007, she moved to New York City to work in digital media. After completing a culinary arts certificate from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2011, she transitioned to working in restaurants. She honed her cooking chops at Torrisi Italian Specialties and Carbone, then moved into restaurant operations. But her most formative experience was a summer stint at Stinky Bklyn, a cheese shop that cemented her love for specialty food retail.
In 2015, she moved back to North Carolina to be closer to family and nature; she was drawn to Durham’s growing food scene and small city appeal. Her work experience here, as director of events at The Durham Hotel, and later as director of Durham Food Hall, cultivated her connection to the local food community.
During a period of professional transition last fall, Bedinger reflected on how COVID-19 had upended the restaurant and retail landscape. She realized that her experience and passion for food could help local producers connect with their customers beyond farmer’s markets and restaurant menus.
Bedinger toyed with starting a food hub, but aggregating locally produced food posed complicated fulfillment logistics. The idea of a specialty food store still appealed to her, though initially, she wasn’t sure there was a place for it in Durham. A fateful conversation with Jennifer Curtis, co-founder of Firsthand Foods, connected Bedinger with Summer Bicknell, the founder of LocoPops. Bicknell had recently added grocery items—including Firsthand Foods’ pasture-raised meats—to extend her shop’s offerings beyond paletas. In late November, Bedinger and Bicknell met up; discovering that they shared similar food philosophies and operating principles, they decided to work together. They began working on sourcing and planning and, on January 12, opened sundries for business.
“It’s a great size,” Bedinger says. “The access to the facilities in the building is perfect. The connection to such a neighborhood institution—LocoPops has such a following—it’s incredible.”
Bedinger has continued to expand sundries’ offerings in the hope that the assortment will help customers stave off kitchen boredom while supporting local and independent food makers. Stock up on Firsthand Foods’ ground beef, chorizo, or sausage links, and come summer, grill-ready meats. Refresh your spice rack with blends from Asheville’s Spicewalla, including Everything Bagel Seasoning and Modena Balsamic Rub, a rich, herby blend that’s excellent on roast chicken and vegetables. Snacks in regular rotation in Bedinger’s pantry include Bertie County Peanuts and popcorn from Durham’s The Mad Popper. Sought-after items from further afield round out Bedinger’s curation, including Fly By Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp, Kewpie Mayonnaise, Scout Canning’s sustainable tuna, and Seed + Mill’s tahini and halva.
Sundries’ beverage selection shines, too. There’s Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitif; craft beers, such as sours from Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. in Charleston and hazy IPAs from Wilmington’s New Anthem Beer Project; and value-driven wines made by small producers, often in lesser-known regions and with uncommon varietals. Each bottle is accompanied by Bedinger’s thoughtful tasting notes, as with an Italian Cortese blend she describes as “snappy, minerally, and bright without being thin. Great for Chablis drinkers or those who like a medium-bodied white without any oak, vanilla, or buttery flavor.”
Bedinger’s next plan is to offer grab-and-go and take-and-heat prepared foods. In the meantime, sundries carries frozen fare from local purveyors, including ramen kits and gyoza from Dashi, wood-fired pizzas from Napoli, and ravioli and tomato sauces from Melina’s Fresh Pasta.
“I want people to have the convenience aspect of dropping into a neighborhood store and getting what they need for dinner,” Bedinger says. In a post-pandemic world, she envisions “people stopping in for something cool to bring to a dinner party—even if you’re not a cook.”
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